A recent paper was published examining two types of training structure:
Alcaraz et al.
Similarity in Adaptations to High-Resistance Circuit vs. Traditional Strength Training in Resistance-Trained Men.
J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Jun 8. [Epub ahead of print] This study used a fixed exercise volume of 3-6 sets of 6 exercises with a 6RM, three times per week for 8 weeks.
The groups were divided into two training styles – a Circuit group that performed the exercise routines as a circuit (one set of each exercise in series) with 35s rest between sets and a traditional strength training group that performed the routine as straight sets, with 3mins rest between sets. Obviously the traditional session took longer to finish.
At the end of the 8 week training period the researchers reported no difference in strength (1RM), peak power, shuttle-run performance and lean mass between the two groups (both groups had the same improvements).
However – only the circuit group lost significant levels of body fat.
The take home message is that circuit training with heavy resistance can provide the same benefits as a traditional strength training program, with the extra addition of fat loss, all in a shorter time frame.
My interpretation: I think if we had the subjects train for the same amount of time (ie a one hour session) – the differences would be even more dramatic. A circuit training group does the same volume in less time than a traditional group, so in the real world where clients could show up for the same amount of time, it only makes sense to recognize that a circuit or superset style of training could allow us to do MORE work than a traditional routine.
I think training with fat loss or general fitness as your goal is probably best accomplished by using reciprocal or non-competing supersets, or in a circuit format to maximize work density. This study shows that it may be as effective even if your goal is improved strength or power.
Kettlebells work Group1: 5 mins of total work
5xDouble handed Swings+
5xGoblet Deck Squats +
5xLeft arm Swings +
5xLeft arm Cleans & Bent Press +
5xLeft arm Snatch +
5xRight arm Swings +
5xRight arm Cleans & Bent Press +
5xRight arm Snatch
Bodyweight work Group 2: 5 mins of total work
10×6 Point Bastards
Rest where needed during the work phase.
Total Rest for 2 minutes before swapping group exercises
Complete 3/4 rounds depending on level of the group
Cool down and stretch